This statue of a man on horseback was removed last week from the streets of a city called Richmond in the USA. The man was Robert E Lee, the general who led the confederate army – and Richmond was the confederacy’s capital.
Statues tell us who a society values. Statues tell us who are our heroes. And I grew up in a city of statues. Adelaide, which has prided itself on being a city of humane values – certainly not thinking of itself as a racist city. After all, it gave the vote to First Nations people before the federation snatched it away.
But whose statues lined the boulevards and squares? Kings and Queens (Edward VII and Victoria). After all this is the town whose main street is named King William Street (after the relatively obscure King William IV – and Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was his wife).
But the ones that stuck in my mind as a boy were the local heroes – John McDouall Stuart and Charles Sturt in Victoria Square and Matthew Flinders in North Terrace. And then there were the statues of the local worthies as well. OAFS – Old Adelaide families. (There are new statues there now. Non-royal Women and First Nations people have appeared. )
But this story is not about statues but how the city I grew up with chose its heroes.
Because back when I was a kid, the maps on the classroom wall showed the tracks of those white explorers who traversed, circumnavigated, and, in the case of Charles Sturt, rowed down (or up, I forget) the River Murray. These days it is much more likely that a map in a classroom will show the lands of our First Nations.
That is progress, I think. And the myth that the explorers “discovered” stuff fades away.
So this is a story of change. Change in the social fabric. As a Christian, I have a basis for living connected to eternal truth, based on knowledge of a heavenly father who “changes not”. Knowing that plans from before the foundation of the world have brought me into his kingdom. And being united in Christ, together with sisters and brothers.
But around that, ideas, fads, national myths, technology will change, even undergo revolutions. New truths will emerge while the one who is the truth will hold me firm.